New Orleans Pelicans: Is Elfrid Payton a Downgrade From Rajon Rondo?

New Orleans Pelicans: Is Elfrid Payton a Downgrade From Rajon Rondo?

When guard Elfrid Payton signed a one-year deal with the Pelicans this past July, the team remained hopeful they could retain Rajon Rondo.

That is, until Rondo bolted for Los Angeles to be part of one of the wackiest Lakers offseasons in some time.

So, rather than position the so-far disappointing 24-year-old Payton as a backup behind a veteran leader, the Pelicans could likely launch him directly back into a starting role alongside Pelicans’ star Jrue Holiday.

Throughout Payton’s first four NBA seasons, he has garnered comparisons to the man he will be replacing. Usually when a player is in conversation with a four-time All-Star and NBA Champion, this means only good news. For Payton though, these likenesses have been for all the wrong reasons.

They are pass-first point guards who can’t shoot. And in today’s NBA where floor spacing and shot-making is at a premium, being a primary ball-handler with a broken jumper is a fast-track out of the league.

Both were once known for being lockdown defenders: Rondo as a four-time All-Defensive player and 2009-10 steals champion. Payton as a Lefty Driessel Award winner during his junior year at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Now, Rondo gets viewed with a critical eye for his defense. And Payton can become too aggressive searching for steals and give away easy buckets to his competition.

Even with their similarities, Rondo had the much better season. He played a significant starting role on a New Orleans team that went 48-34 and upset the third-seeded Portland Trailblazers in the first round of this year’s playoffs.

Payton, on the other hand, was traded from the Orlando Magic to the Phoenix Suns at the deadline for a paltry 2018 second round pick. His Magic team went nowhere fast, ending with a 25-57 record. The Suns went nowhere even faster, going 21-61.

This disparity in team success begs the question: Will Elfrid Payton hurt this New Orleans team next season, or will he finally find a context that better suits his game?

Next Up: Comparing Their Offensive Production

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